The Tallapoosa County Board of Education is trying to figure out how to afford its $29.8 million worth of capital projects after facing a new roadblock. The board was informed at its work session Tuesday its capital improvement projects’ loan financing rate and origination fees with River Bank & Trust were rejected by the Alabama Department of Education.
“I’m not trying to hit the panic button or anything but until we get (a bank to work with) you don’t have a penny to spend,” board attorney Mark Allen Treadwell told the board. “Everything else with the (Tallapoosa) County commissioners in terms of everything we’ve done to this point, we don’t have to go back and redo any of that.”
Chief schools financial officer Tommy Thweatt was informed by the Alabama Department of Education the $187,500 origination fees and 2.75% financing rate with River Bank & Trust were too high and Thweatt went back to get rates with River bank along with Valley Bank, Compass Bank and Farmers & Merchants Bank.
“It’s really not fair to the banks that already gave us rates because everybody knows what they bid already,” Thweatt said.
School board members were confused why the plan wasn’t approved. Graham suggested Treadwell write a letter to the department help the board understand what to avoid when looking for bond rates.
“This board did exactly what it was supposed to do and now they’re slapping us in the face that we don’t have the ability to make a decision,” board member Betty Carol Graham said.
Treadwell said he tried to express why the board wants to bank locally to the department and the department said the numbers looked out of line without any further explanation.
Treadwell suggested resending a request for proposal to the banks then get new numbers back to the state department of education.
The board also looked into how to fairly bid all of its projects.
The Dadeville Elementary School cafeteria, Dadeville High School gym, new Reeltown Elementary School and Horseshoe Bend School’s renovations and new auditorium may have different start dates due to plans getting finished and the board going to bid.
According to facilities management supervisor Dwayne Johnson, the board needs to bid its DES cafeteria project and media center estimated at $3,984,333.89 now for construction to start in the summer, which is the only time it can work on the kitchen. The renovations include new kitchen equipment, tables and seating.
The original estimate was $3,925,646, according to Johnson. The others project bid estimates were not announced at the meeting.
The Dadeville High School gym renovation is also getting rebid.
The Reeltown Elementary project isn’t close to bid because the plans are still at the Alabama Building Commission waiting for approval, Johnson said. Horseshoe Bend’s projects are still working on the architectural drawings.
“We’re kind of at the building commission’s mercy when giving them plans,” Johnson said.
Graham expressed concern about starting the Dadeville projects already because the Tallapoosa County Commission specified with its sales tax bond renewal the schools have to work on the projects simultaneously.
“I don’t think it will be responsible at all to award any of these bids until we have all three bids in for all three schools so we know what we’re doing with (them) and not put a bind on the business office,” Graham said.
Johnson said delaying the Dadeville bids would only put the project back a year and increase the prices. He also clarified the projects need to start around the same time but not the on same day per se.
“We can’t take (DES’) kitchen out during school because it’s completely being redone,” Johnson said.
Board member Carla Talton said the DES cafeteria project is time sensitive and a high priority for the school system and thinks the commission will understand why the project should be done first.
“I guess we have to conform to what the commission says but you can’t follow guidelines that aren’t doable,” board member Michael Carter said.
Johnson said if every project was bid at the same time, some contractors wouldn’t bid DES because it has remodeling in it or the projects would come up back over budget.
The board has to decide on DES’ bid by Feb. 17 and moved its next meeting to 5 p.m. Feb. 13 to approve the bids and discuss the bonds sooner.